British Columbia

Northern spring under boil water order in region with few wells

Northern Health has issued a boil water advisory for a spring water system many rural people relied on in the absence of good local wells.

Spring water 'at risk of containing pathogens'

With few good water wells in the region, many rural people hauled their water from Feye Spring, northeast of Fort St. John. (CBC News)

A health authority has issued a boil water order for a system that supplies spring water to around 100 rural families northeast of Fort St. John.

Many locals haul water from the spring because few have good well water.

But Northern Health officials say the Feye Spring water system is now "at risk of containing pathogens."

The water system was found to be high in total coliform bacteria during sampling in July, according to Northern Health communications officer Christina Doll.

Elevated total coliform

Total coliforms are a group of bacteria found in soil, vegetation and in the intestines of animals and humans, said Doll. 

"In and of themselves, they are not likely to cause illness," she said, noting that E. coli tests were negative.

Still, the elevated total coliform presence indicates the water supply may be "vulnerable to contamination by more harmful microorganisms," she said.

There are few good drinking water wells in our area, so the spring has been very important.- Karen Goodings, local politician and farmer

Residents are now being told to boil water from the spring for at least one minute before using it for drinking, making ice, cooking, washing food or brushing teeth.

They are also being told to use hand sanitizer after washing their hands.

"I know the health authorities are very concerned since Walkerton about any ... water source that could carry contamination," said Karen Goodings, the area's elected director with the Peace River Regional District and a retired farmer from Cecil Lake. 

'They've relied on it for 50 years'

Her family spent tens of thousands of dollars test drilling in search of drinking water on their farm before giving up on a well.  

"There are few good drinking-water wells in our area, so the spring has been very important to these people," said Goodings. 

"And ... it does not have fluoridation or chlorination, and they've relied on it for 50 years. We've never had a case of illness as a result," she said.

"People need to know this is not considered potable by the province." said Goodings. "People will make their own decisions." 

Feye Spring has been a main water source for people living in Clayhurst, Golata Creek, Goodlow and Cecil Lake.

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